Soil and Land Management

A traffic light soil water sensor for resource poor farmers: proof of concept

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Project code
FSC/2013/002
Budget
AUD 163,766
Research program manager
Dr Evan Christen
Project leader
Dr Richard Stirzaker
Duration:
APR 2013
MAR 2014
Project status
Concluded
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Overview

This project's main objectives were to assess the sensor’s accuracy, develop a robust handheld interface, and develop mobile phone apps to collect and display the sensor’s data.

In Africa, irrigation is largely under-developed and innovations are needed to help small-scale farmers manage their irrigation water. This study was the first step to delivering technology to such farmers by road testing a prototype sensor that measures soil moisture and gives an output resembling a traffic light: green (meaning plenty of water), orange (transition state), or red (running out of water).

Project outcomes

  • Selected the combination of electrode arrangement and porous media to give step changes in resistance when moving from Green to Orange and Orange to Red.
  • Developed robust, inexpensive interface for recording the step change in resistance and display it as 3 lights.
  • Tested the usefulness and acceptability of the sensor to African smallholder farmers.
  • Developed phone apps to make data collection and display as simple and as meaningful as possible.
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Key partners
CSIRO Land and Water, Australia
Measurement Engineering Australia Pty Ltd
University of Eduardo Mondlane
Documents
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Final report FSC/2013/002